paragraph indents, tab settings /stops: how to change the default and how to copy settings between projects

I understand how to change the paragraph indents, tab settings /stops.
I can’t find where I can change the Scrivener default, and how to copy (export→ import) those settings between projects.
thanks very much !

The main default for all new documents in this and every new project is set in Preferences > Editing > Formatting. All you need to do is use the ruler in the dummy text box to set the tabs the way you want them to be. The formatted paragraph this produces is the ‘default No Style’ you get when you start a new document, or press cmd-opt-0 etc. Because it’s the default style, it also sets the default tabs (and indents / line-spacing etc) for any new document, which is what you want.

The easiest way to set these defaults is to create a new document in the binder with a dummy paragraph, and then set it up exactly the way you want it. This gives you a bit more control over the settings, because you can use all the commands in the Format menu (which are more detailed than the ones in the ruler).

Once your dummy paragraph is set up exactly the way you want it in this new document, then with your cursor in the paragraph, go to Preferences > Editing > Formatting and click the User Formatting in Current Editor button. Once you’re happy the settings have taken, you can delete that dummy document.

You’ll notice that your new settings are not retrospective – they don’t apply to your current documents. What you’ll need to do is select all the ‘old style’ documents in the binder, then choose Documents > Convert > Text to Default Formatting…. You’ll have to fill in a dialogue box with some options (but usually you can leave them all unticked), but after that, all your documents will have your new default format and tabs.

NB: You cannot undo these changes easily! So, until you’re happy with what happens, I would take a backup copy of the entire project for peace of mind. (The process is robust, but better to have peace of mind…)

thank you very much for a clear and detailed reply !

You’re very welcome!

A couple of further points:

  • Once you’ve set the default paragraph up in this way, you can use it to reset any individual paragraph (not just whole documents) by putting your cursor in the paragraph to be changed and pressing cmd-opt-0 (i.e. By applying the default ‘No Style’ style…)

  • You can override these default ‘new document’ settings for any individual project. Create a dummy paragraph with the preferred layout as before and go to Project > Project Settings > Formatting and click ‘Use different default formatting for new documents in this project’. This will only work in this project — new documents and new projects will still follow the settings in Preferences > Editing > Formatting.


crystal clear. thanks very much !

If you don’t mind a follow-up question:

From one list to the next, I often find myself changing the Format → Paragraph→ Line and Paragraph Spacing…→ Paragraph spacing → after → depending on the document, I use 0, 1, 2 or 3.

It involves a lot of clicking. Is there a way that I could create keyboard shortcuts or some faster way to do so ?

You obviously have a gift for understanding user’s needs and composing beautifully written very helpful answers. Do you have a web site or do Scrivener consultation work ?

thanks again very much
paragraph spacing.png
paragraph spacing.png

You’re very kind, thank you! No, I don’t have a website… I’ve just been using the program for a long time, so have picked up a few tips on the way.

There’s actually a fairly easy way to do what you’re after: you simply have to define a separate style for each of the different paragraph configurations, and then you can add a shortcut to each one, so you can change e.g. the ‘paragraph after’ space quickly.

I’ll give you the basic steps here, but you’ll want to read the section in the Interactive Tutorial (on the Help Menu) on Styles, if you haven’t already done so, so that you get the background on what’s happening and why.

What we’re going to do is create two new styles: one called After 6 and one called After 18. Both the new styles are based on the default style No Style with a paragraph after spacing of 0pts, so that the only difference between the three styles is the size of the paragraph after spacing—0pts, 6pts and 18pts. (NB: this is only to simplify this post of course-- you can of course change every setting in the styles. I’ve used 6pts and 18pts just to make it clearer in the screenshot.)

The result is the screenshot below:

Here, the cursor is in one of the After 6 paragraphs (marked in red), which has the shortcut cmd-opt-8. There are two After 18 paragraphs (blue - shortcut cmd-opt-9). When you are in a paragraph of one style, the next one will be the same style (After 6 paras are automatically followed by another After 6, etc), so if you want to change the style, then you use the appropriate shortcut.

As far as I can tell, this will do what you want — am I right?

To set it up, you have to create the two new styles: this is really easy to do.

  1. In a dummy document, create a paragraph with the default style (cmd-opt-0). DON’T use a bullet/list point at this stage
  2. Highlight the paragraph and give it the paragraph after space you want, e.g 6pt
  3. With the paragraph still highlighted, press Ctl-s to get the style panel up, then click the + button at the bottom ("'Add new style from selection").
  4. This will give you a New Style dialogue. Fill it in with the details in the screenshot below

It should be fairly self-explanatory: you want to give it a shortcut, make sure ‘Save All Formatting’ is set, and make sure the Next Style dropdown is set to ‘This Style’. Press OK.

  1. Rehighlight the dummy paragraph, and go through steps 2-4 again but this time with a paragraph after spacing of 18pts, giving it an appropriate name and a different shortcut.

That’s it — it takes a lot longer to describe than to do! Now you can change the spacing of a paragraph with the appropriate shortcut. The same technique will work for any combination of paragraph settings. You can attach bullets and numbers to the lists in the normal way after the initial definition — it’s just simpler not to use them when you’re setting things up.

Hope this helps…

a superb explanation. thank you very much ! You certainly have a gift for writing explanations and procedures, and I am grateful for the time you spent setting up and taking snapshots.

Thanks to your reply I was now able to setup my list (paragraph) styles properly.

It’s funny: I have been using Scrivener for quite a few years and never managed to tackle the problem, although my first reflex years ago was to go the style panel route.

It was a source of constant frustration because I was making those mistakes which you specifically mention to avoid, ie starting by setting up a list instead of starting with a paragraph.
I also made the mistake of leaving Next Style empty which creates problems with lists. Otherwise, as in my case, the paragraph spacing reverts to default when you add a list item.

I always thought that the Next Style option in defining styles was limited to writing Q&As. Prompted by your post, I will try to find a discussion to better understand Next Style and its uses.

Inspired by your wisdom, I will pick one project, for example the interactive tutorial project to implement all style changes / improvements and import those changes into projects that I am working on. Otherwise, as is my case now, it’s total choas. I implement style changes in projects I am currently working on and end up with bits and pieces here and there.

Finally, I did a search for brookter and am reading your posts. A treasure trove of knowledge about Scrivener and a pleasure to read.

So thanks again very much.

You’re very welcome! I’m glad it helped.